Some of my friends think it's odd that I would spend the four weeks away from my writing job writing, but I'm loving it. Although I refer to it as "working" every day, i'm working on my own stuff, doing what I want to do.
I spent the first week writing original material. In the recent PitchWars, a Middle Grade manuscript I considered finished got an excellent response. The people who gave me feedback agreed on one thing, however: my book was too short. So I fixed that, writing just over 15,000 words in six days. Since then, I've been revising my WIP, writing new scenes (including one I've been dreading for months).
It's the most productive I've been since I took a two-week writing vacation a couple years ago. Part of the success is due to the lessons I learned during that vacation.
Follow a Routine
As tempting as it may be to sleep in while I have the chance, I know I'm most productive between about 10 and 1:00. That means that, although I do stay in bed a little later than usual, I am in my home office (my Schreibwinkel) by about 9:30. I've started as early as 7:30 and as late as 10:00, but on all but a few days, I've started between 9:00 and 9:45. Except for one day when I worked on a scene that exhausted me so I had to stop around 12:30, I've worked until around 1:30, occasionally as late as 2 or 2:30.
That's a fairly aggressive schedule, but it works for me. I work through my most productive time and stop when I feel the mojo weakening.
Because I write at the beginning of my day, every day, I wake up ready to go. Sometimes, my morning dreams are even related to the work I need to do that day.
My family is used to me needing to be left alone in my Schreibwinkel. I frequently work from home, so they've been trained for years to let me work. They're used to me being unavailable, even if I'm in the house.
Because I'm working shorter hours than usual, they know that if they leave me alone for a few hours, I'm theirs when I'm done. Most things they need from me can wait.
I've also made it a rule that, for the most part, I check email and Facebook before and after I work. Once in a while, I'll check during a break, but I've mostly been good about this.
I'm used to working through the typical household noises, but I am easily distracted by talking and laughing. It helps me minimize distracting noises to listen to music. Music can also distract me, though. I've learned that putting my music on shuffle instead of listening to favorites works for me. I recently read an article that suggested putting on music you don't especially like. I don't take it that far. In fact, sometimes a scene calls for a certain kind of background music, even though nobody else would necessarily connect the two.
Because my writing period is fairly long, I take breaks. Some are informally scheduled. For example, there have been several days when I've written from 9 until about 10, then stopped for breakfast.
There have also been scheduled breaks. There have been some days when my writing group has scheduled writing sprints where we work for a specified period, then check in with each other on our Facebook page.
Each writer has unique break needs. Some of us can only write for so many minutes without a pause. Some of us need to look away from the screen now and then during an intense scene so we can keep enough distance to write well. And some of cannot stop without breaking the spell.
I know when I need a break. My only real rule for breaks is that I don't allow myself to become distracted by another task. My breaks are no longer than necessary, and my family members understand that I may be showing my face, but my time is not theirs yet.
This is what works for me. My family situation allows me to work this way. My kids are older. Two grandkids live with me, but I'm not the only caregiver in the house, like a lot of moms (especially) are. And I already have work routines when I'm home.
The result of putting structure around my writing time is that I remain productive, and that I enjoy my writing time because other stresses are reduced as much as possible during those hours.